Aston Villa – Wigan Athletic: a broken-spirit clasico

If Latics were facing Aston Villa at home tomorrow I’d be writing about the kind of result that could turn the club’s season around. Instead, Martinez’s men travel to Villa Park for one of the more unpredictable fixtures of the season.

After an encouraging run of form including a convincing away win at Anfield, Paul Lambert’s men have now conceded 12 goals in the last two matches. Chelsea and Spurs — their victors — are coincidentally also responsible for Wigan’s heaviest Premier League defeats in Roberto’s early days at the club. Villa’s young team’s capitulation bore many similarities to that of Wigan’s in those drubbings — inexperience and lack of tactical cohesion. A team at the beginning of a new cycle.

So whose morale is more firmly rooted in the gutter?

While Wigan’s results of late have been poor, all losses have been close, and recent ones tinged with the injustice of penalty decisions going the wrong way. It was no coincidence that the bottom three all suffered from harsh treatment from referees this weekend (Reading conceded a last-minute goal in which Gareth Barry had fouled his defender; QPR’s Robert Green did not receive protection from the officials when conceding their second goal). When you’re down there, things don’t seem to go your way. But the performance level against Arsenal and Everton was good, and players are starting to return from injury. Gary Caldwell got better as the game went along on mid-week, and Ivan Ramis was on the bench suggesting he is near full fitness. All things points to improvement.

The question, of course, is which Villa will turn up?

Prediction: Latics finally get something from the match officials.

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